Why I subscribe to Aaron Karo’s newsletter, "Ruminations" is beyond me. Perhaps I like the nearly apoplectic feelings of anger it arouses in my heart. Now, as a disclaimer– I don’t have a problem with Karo himself. He seems like a reasonably nice guy, and he is funny on occasion. In fact, in that fun Jewish Geography way, a couple of my friends went to high school with him (POBJFKHS, baby). But what really pisses me off about him is something I’m going to call the Karo Ethic.
In addition to the newsletter, which appears in my box at random moments (once a month? feels like more than that), Karo has written several books about college and twentysomething life. God bless. I wish I had that kind of diligence. Basically, he’s a guy from Long Island who went away to college (U. Penn) and started sending out group emails full of Seinfeld-esque observations on the nature of the college experience. Pretty soon, everyone thought he was really funny, and he amassed a following at colleges across the country. That translated into book #1, Ruminations on College Life.
Then Karo graduated and moved to a cookie cutter apartment in Manhattan. He kept ruminating, and that turned into Book #2, Ruminations on Twentysomething Life (due out in May 2005).
Now, he has just informed us, his loyal subscribers, that Twentieth Century Fox has signed him on to write a sitcom based on his column called "The Whatever Years." He breaks the news in typical Karo style:
‘"The Whatever Years" features some of your favorite characters from my RUMINATIONS column – me, my roommate Brian, and our friends the Triplets – and details our exploits as recovering frat boys running wild through New York City. And if even one of the Triplets gets a hand job for having a sitcom character based upon him, it will make the whole experience worthwhile.’
Now that is pure class.
But I haven’t yet said why I’m so infuriated by Karo. Here it comes: it’s his tag line, "Writing what you’re thinking since 1997." I resent the fact that as a white, upper-middle-class, Ivy League-educated Jew from Long Island, Karo assumes he is speaking for me. But I get really mad when I think that Karo presumes to speak on behalf of ALL twenty-somethings living on their own in the big city. I resent the fact that my generation has been assigned Karo as our spokesperson. I resent the fact that the popularity of Karo establishes an official mainstream voice and set of experiences and reactions to the world, which relegates any competing narratives to the margins. I resent the fact that Karo legitimizes a set of male sexual ethics that forces girls to adhere to a new version of the Madonna/Whore archetype. Either these girls become sanctified "girlfriends" (on the road to cookie cutter matrimony) or they are just girls to fuck around with, nameless, unidentified, synecdochical (who do you think is giving that Triplet that hand job?).
Finally, Karo represents a value system that paradoxically values a person’s level of education (where you went to school, what kind of graduate degree you have) while disdaining any serious intellectual engagement. The degree flaunted from the prestigious college becomes more a way of saying "look at what an amazing school I went to and look at how little I learned while I was there." In this Karo universe, ignorance becomes a badge of honor.
By the way– he notes on his website that his column became required reading in a college course in Austria. Dude, did you ever think maybe the professor is so appalled by the current state of American campus life that s/he’s using you as an example of the Decline of the American Mind?
And most egregiously– Karo claims to have invented the slang term "fuck me." Actually, the first time I remember hearing this phrase was in "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves" (1991). The line is uttered by Will Scarlett (Christian Slater), upon seeing that one of the other characters (Azeem? Robin?) has managed to catapault himself over the castle walls: "Fuck me, he cleared it."